This is a blog about music, photography, history, and culture.
These are photographs from my collection that tell a story about lost time and forgotten music.

Mike Brubaker
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Ladies of Brass with Hats

21 July 2018

Not so long ago
the sight of a woman who was
without a hat on her head
was an unusual,
if not unseemly, occurrence.

A woman's hat might be of any shape or size
as fashion might decree,
but if she was to be in the public eye
she must wear a head covering.
At least according to the conventional rules
of European society in the 1900s.

Men also needed hats
to be properly dressed 
 but generally only when outdoors.

Upon entering a building
a man could check his hat at a cloakroom.
But a woman on the other hand,
retained her hat
no matter the activity or situation.

There were pill box hats.

Flat berets. 

 Military or police style caps with brims.

 And sailor caps sized extra-large.

How did the unwritten regulations on apparel
apply to these female musicians
in German brass bands?

The first drummer girl with the sombrero type hat was a member or the Damen Blas-Orchester „Ariele“, directed by Aug. Bornschein. This ladies wind wind orchestra is made up of six young women and four men, all with brass instruments except for the drummer who has her snare tilted up on a chair with the bass drum and cymbals beside it. The women are dressed in matching frocks that have a kind of layered effect that includes contrasting banded edge and a few dangling pom-poms. Their hats are quite large and have a dark sash on the front brim. The drummer also flaunts a long pearl necklace.

The men are mostly hidden from view at the back. My guess is that the older man playing tuba is Herr August Bornschein. It's likely that some of the women, and maybe younger men too, are related. In front of the one woman who is standing center, is a set of four natural trumpets with flags attached. The flags display an emblem AB for Ariele Blas or Ariele Wind.

Their postcard was sent from Gelsenkirchen, a city in the North Rhine-Westphalia state of Germany, on 11 February 1912.

* * *

The next image came from another postcard of the Ariele Damen Blas Orchester which had one more woman to make an ensemble of seven women and four men. The caption says their director is P. Jentzen früher i.e. formerly Bornschein. Their brass instruments are precariously stacked into a large pile.

In this picture the women are turned out in identical dark dresses with nautical bonnets, sailor collars, and flotation sashes. Notice the anchor patches sewn onto their shoulder sleeves.

This card was posted on the 29 July 1911. The bearded green man on the stamp, is Luitpold, Prince Regent of Bavaria. The stamp commemorates the 25th anniversary of his reign as regent of Bayern or Bavaria. He assumed this responsibility as head of state in 1886 when first his nephew, King Ludwig II and then nephew King Otto proved too mentally unstable to rule. Prince Luitpold died in December 1912 at age 91.

* * *

The third image comes from a very similar band called the Österreichisches Damen Trompeter Corps „Bohème“. The director is A. Lohmann who I believe is the man standing right of center. This Austrian brass band of ten musicians also has six women and four men. All with brass instruments except for another woman on drums. The women all wear matching outfits, a vaguely folk style dress with a tight collar. Their hats are slightly smaller than the Ariele's big hats and with a large pom on the upturned brim. They also have a broad hip sash which was a popular style with female musicians in German/Austrian Damen Orchester.

Like the Ariele ensemble, the Bohème band also has a woman with a trumpet standing center. She is the lead soloist as all the other brass are in the lower sound spectrum of alto, tenor, and bass instruments. In the foreground are two pairs of natural herald trumpets, again with embroidered flags attached.

The Bohème brass band is a long way from Vienna as their postcard was sent from the port city of Hamburg, Germany on the 7th of March 1912.

* * *

The enormous pancake hats in the fourth image were worn by the women of the Damen Blas-Orchester „Teutonia“, directed by Franz Britting, the man with the trumpet seated center. It is another 10 piece brass band with six women and four men. The women wear white blouses, or shirt waists, with dark colored skirts and folk-like embroidered vests. The large hats hovering above their massive coiffures, are held on presumably with long hairpins. As with the other groups, a tripod of natural trumpets occupies the centerpiece of instruments.

Unfortunately the stamp and its postmark was removed from this postcard, so the date and location is not known. However its printing style resembles several other cards from the 1900-1914 era.

* * *

The ladies in pillbox hats on the fifth image came from another postcard of the Damen Blas-Orchester „Teutonia“. This time their name has the prefix Schwäbisches or Swabian which refers to the southwest region of Germany called Swabia. Now divided between the modern states of Baden-Württemberg and Bavaria, the natives speak a dialect of high German.

This postcard was never mailed but has an incomplete address to a Georg Förtner of Nürnberg.

* * *

The flat berets of the sixth image were worn women of the Alt Heildelberg Damen Blas Orchester. Their name is written on a banner draped on the bass drum. The director was C. Oppermann. This brass band has eleven musicians with six women and five men. This time the men wear caps which I believe are a style worn by college students. Founded in 1386, Heidelberg University is Germany's most celebrated educational institution. Both the men and women also have narrow striped sashes across their chests which I believe is another academic tradition. Like the other groups, there is one high trumpet played by a woman seated left center. The other rotary valve brass instruments are below its timbre. And again a stack of four natural trumpets are in the center foreground.

This postcard was mailed from Saarbrücken on the 8th of September 1912.

* * *

The military style caps in the seventh image were worn by the women of the Damen Trompeter-Corps „Elbust“, directed by Fritz Thiele who is seated center. The women have white shirtwaists with dark fringed skirts. They also combine the narrow striped chest sash with the wide hip sash. Two pairs of natural trumpets lean on the knees of the seated women. On the floor by the director's feet are a tambourine and a small box with a metal xylophone.The woman seated center right has the only high trumpet.

This postcard was sent on 2 January 1910 from Hagen, Germany in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia.

* * *

The last excerpted image was part of this group of nine musicians captioned on their postcard as the Damen Blas-Orchester „Gut Heil“ or "Good Luck". The director was Felten, Kapellmeister, seated right center holding a paper roll, the symbol of a pianist. This brass band has five women and four men. The women are decked out in white sailor type suits with contrasting broad square tied collars and flat caps similar to those worn by the German navy. Once again a pyramid of natural trumpets is arranged in the center. For more postcards of German lady trumpeter corps playing these natural trumpets follow my stories: More Ladies of Brass; and Even More Ladies with Brass.

This postcard was never posted so there is no date, but I think it is like the other Germanic ladies bands and belongs to the same 1910-1914 era before the start of the Great War.

* * *

I've posted the images of these eight postcards of six different bands because I think they exhibit an intriguing number of similarities in both fashion sense and musical ensemble. And as my regular readers know, I have a fascination with hats and how frequently they appear in antique photographs.

These ensembles represent a time in the 1900s when live music was the principal attraction at taverns, cafes, restaurants, and music halls. The entertainment industry, i.e. Show Biz, in central Europe became so ubiquitous that it sustained a bewildering variety of traveling musical troupes. And as many of these groups employed female musicians they represent a striking contrast with how women from this era are usually portrayed in social history.

Not all of the Damen Blas Orchester wore hats. In the hundreds of postcards in my collection, most have no hair covering, while some wore just kerchiefs or ribbon bows. As we can see in the Ariele and Teutonia groups, the women changed costumes, probably to suit the region and the venue where they performed. Sailor suits for port cities, folk vests for southern alpine towns. Undoubtedly the success of a female musical group hinged on a strong fashion style that attracted audiences and  maintained a freshness that kept people returning to hear more.

Because brass instruments are inherently loud, these brass bands likely played on outdoor stages, which may also partly explain the hats. The more refined music of the Damen Konzert or Salon Orchester which had women playing primarily string instruments, mainly performed indoors, so in their postcards women are generally shown without head covering. I imagine that most female groups imitated the trends in theater and society circles and adapted accordingly. And I readily acknowledge there are probably many subtle clues in dress styles from the 1900s that have evaded my limited masculine sensibilities. Can you picture the rhythmic movement made by their hats as they marched onto stage? That made a class act.

This is my contribution to Sepia Saturday
where summer hats are de rigueur.


Molly's Canopy said...

Quite a selection of interesting hats and costumes. Some of the women's outfits appear to be folkloric -- such as the embroidered vests or the aprons worn by the Swabian band posted below them -- perhaps characteristic of the area they hailed from. As fascinating as the hats are the arrangement of instruments at the center of many of these photos. That appears to have been the style of band studio photos -- perhaps to be sure all instruments were represented.

Barbara Rogers said...

I so enjoy your descriptions of hats, instruments and costumes of these bands! But when you said "fringed skirts" I kind of balked. I can't remember what the term would be to describe gathered skirts with different bands or tiers of gathering (which I made for myself several times in Home Ec classes). But I don't remember hearing them described as "fringed." Anyone else that could help would be appreciated.

Mike Brubaker said...

You are quite right about the "fringed", Barbara. I meant to write "ring banded skirts" which may not be any better, but I couldn't come up with a clear term. My seamstress vocabulary is limited.

Kathy said...

Maybe "tiered skirt" is the wording you are looking for? There seem to be lots of results on google for the term.

tony said...

i dont know if it's still the case...I am a lapsed-Catholic these days...but it was always the convention, when i was a child, that females always wore hats in church & males never did. Odd how such rules came about . Maybe something to do with 'modesty' in the case of women & 'honesty/non-disguise' in the case of menfolk...?

La Nightingail said...

Lots of hats and different costumes, but what's really interesting are those hairdos underneath the hats! Gibson Girl 'dos looks like?

Kristin said...

I am so glad I did not arrive during the obligatory hat wearing years. I've never liked hats much, except for warmth or keeping the sun off.


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